The Final Days of the Inquisition: A Father’s Fight to Reunite with His Son

The Final Days of the Inquisition: A Father’s Fight to Reunite with His Son


The Inquisition was a powerful institution within the Catholic Church that was responsible for investigating and punishing individuals accused of heresy, witchcraft, and other religious crimes. The Inquisition had a notorious reputation for its brutal methods of interrogation and punishment, which often included torture and execution. However, in the mid-19th century, the Inquisition’s power began to wane. The case of Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish boy kidnapped by the Inquisition in Bologna in 1858, became a symbol of the unjust practices of the Inquisition and played a significant role in its ultimate downfall.

An Overview

The case of the Jewish boy kidnapped by the Inquisition in Bologna in 1858 and the struggle of his father to get him back is a testament to the persistence of the Inquisition’s power and its continuing impact on European society. The story reveals not only the desperate lengths to which families would go to protect their loved ones from the Inquisition’s grasp, but also the larger political and cultural forces at play in the 19th century. Ultimately, the case of the kidnapped boy became a symbol for those fighting against the Inquisition, and contributed to the eventual downfall of this powerful institution.

This article delves into the history of the Inquisition, a notorious institution established by the Catholic Church to suppress heresy and dissent. The focus is on the final days of the Inquisition, particularly on a harrowing incident that took place in Bologna in 1858, where a Jewish boy was kidnapped by the Inquisition. The boy’s father launches a struggle to get his son back, continuing the fight that Napoleon had initiated 60 years earlier in an attempt to dismantle the Inquisition. The article explores the events that ultimately led to the end of the Inquisition, as well as the desperate fight to reunite father and son, and Napoleon’s role in trying to dismantle the institution.

A Dark History of Persecution and Fear

The Inquisition was a powerful institution of the Roman Catholic Church established in the 13th century to combat heresy, or dissent from Catholic beliefs. Its methods were brutal, using torture, imprisonment, and execution to enforce orthodoxy. The Inquisition targeted not only those who practiced religions other than Catholicism, but also Catholics suspected of holding unorthodox views. The Inquisition was active in many parts of Europe and beyond, and its legacy is one of fear and persecution.

The Long Reign of the Inquisition

The Inquisition was an institution established in the 13th century by the Roman Catholic Church to combat heresy. It spread throughout Europe and continued to operate for hundreds of years, with varying degrees of power and influence. The Inquisition was active during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, a period of great intellectual and social change in Europe. Despite some opposition, the Inquisition remained a powerful force until the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when it was finally dismantled.

Jewish Boy Kidnapped by the Inquisition

In 1858, a Jewish boy named Edgardo Mortara was kidnapped by the Inquisition in Bologna, Italy. The reason for his abduction was that a Catholic servant had baptized him secretly when he fell ill, and under the Church’s law, he was now considered a Catholic. Despite his parents’ protests and the intervention of the Austrian and French governments, the Pope refused to release the boy to his family, and he was raised as a Catholic.

Napoleon’s Attempt to Dismantle the Inquisition

Sixty years earlier in 1808, Napoleon had attempted to dismantle the Inquisition and secure its secret files, but the Popes regained their power and managed to keep the Inquisition alive. The Inquisition’s secret files were nearly secured by Napoleon’s efforts but were ultimately reclaimed by the popes, leading to further controversy and struggle. However, the Mortara case rekindled the debate over the Inquisition’s authority, and it became a symbol for the battle between the Catholic Church and the forces of modernity.

The Desperate Fight to Reunite Father and Son

Edgardo’s father, a Jewish merchant named Momolo Mortara, fought tirelessly to get his son back and to reunite with his kidnapped son, becoming a symbol for an embattled pope. He launched an international campaign, seeking support from politicians and public figures, but to no avail. Edgardo’s story became a cause célèbre, and he was visited by numerous dignitaries, including the future King Edward VII of England. The story of Bologna 1858, the kidnapping of a Jewish boy by the Inquisition and his father’s fight to get him back, became a symbol for the excesses and abuses of the Inquisition.

The End of the Inquisition

The Mortara case proved to be the beginning of the end for the Inquisition. The case attracted worldwide attention and led to widespread criticism of the Church’s methods. The Catholic Church eventually abandoned the Inquisition in 1908, and its final days were marked by a series of scandals and controversies. The End of the Inquisition marked a significant turning point in European history. It was the combined forces of individuals like Napoleon, who attempted to dismantle the Inquisition, and the changing attitudes and beliefs of the European population that brought about its end.

The Legacy of the Mortara Case

The Mortara case continues to be a controversial episode in the history of the Catholic Church. It remains a potent symbol of the Inquisition’s brutal methods and the power of the Church in Europe during the 19th century. However, it also serves as a reminder of the resilience of individuals and their ability to fight against powerful institutions to protect their families and communities. Finally, the legacy of the Inquisition, remains a controversial and contested topic in modern-day discourse on religion, power, and human rights.


The Mortara case marked one of the final blows to the Inquisition, which ultimately came to an end in the 19th century. The final days of the Inquisition marked the end of an era in European history. The Inquisition had a long and controversial history, spanning from the 13th century to the 19th century. It was a powerful institution that sought to maintain Catholic orthodoxy and suppress any perceived threats to the faith. However, as the Enlightenment brought new ideas and challenges to traditional authority, the Inquisition came under increasing scrutiny and opposition.

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